Chronic Stress and Reproduction, part 2
Last week we talked about how chronic stress affects women when it comes to reproduction and intimacy. This week we’ll discuss the male’s side of this and how both male and female can understand one another in this important issue.
Male Reproductive System:
The male reproductive system also depends upon the brain for proper function. While the major sex hormone produced by women is estrogen, the major sex hormone produced by males is testosterone. During male maturation, testosterone levels increase causing many physical changes to take place such as deepening of the voice, facial hair growth and increased muscle mass. Testosterone will also affect the brain by focusing on solutions. This is why men and women often fail to understand one another. Men are built to focus on solutions to problems while women are built to recognize the finer details.
The male reproductive system relies on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. As a review, the sympathetic nervous system triggers stimulation of certain organs while the parasympathetic nervous system inhibits stimulation once the function is complete. In terms of intimacy, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated first, inciting feelings of connection and closeness with the spouse. This separates humans from animals; male animals will go straight to stimulation from the sympathetic system. Human men, on the other hand, first get feelings of tenderness, and then the parasympathetic system sends signals for the sympathetic system to also begin. During intimacy, both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems work simultaneously. In a healthy relationship, this results in a feeling of not just pleasure up to ejaculation, but a sense of peace, comfort and closeness with the spouse afterward.
Male Reproductive System and Chronic Stress:
Unlike females where estrogen levels can be affected by chronic stress, testosterone production is not typically affected by chronic stress in men. There would have to be a continual, deeply traumatic incident to affect testosterone production. However, chronic stress will affect men’s reproductive system in two major ways- erectile dysfunction and early ejaculation.
During times of chronic stress, high amounts of glucocorticoid is produced thus affecting the collaboration of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Beta endorphins in the brain are also affected. Masturbation can also affect the reproductive system because masturbation induced ejaculation does not produce the same brain chemicals as does intimacy with a spouse. Pornography also produces this negative effect on libido because the regions in the brain where love and affection are stored are not initiated. This in effect will create a disbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Chronic stress in men is often noticeable after an extended period of time. A few common triggers of stress are problems with work, conflict at home or financial hardship. These stressful events, left unresolved create a buildup of negative thoughts which can affect the male reproductive system over time. One of the common issues which will stem from chronic stress is erectile dysfunction (the inability to maintain an erection). With the rise in chronic stress it is no wonder that this condition which use to be associated with only elder males is now affecting younger and younger males. Unfortunately, this condition is becoming more and more common, affecting males as young as in their thirties or sometimes even younger. Chronic stress affects the important balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems during intimacy, affecting a lot of men in their thirties or even younger. While the parasympathetic nervous system should be activated first, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered immediately. This results in an unhealthy intimate experience, and also can affect prostate health, producing inflammation which can lead to cancer.
Understanding one another:
Men and women are built differently in many ways. Hormonally, men are built to focus on solutions to problems while women are built to recognize the finer details. These differences can sometimes cause conflict when understanding is not present. Taking the time to understand how and why these differences occur will give greater perspective and sympathy, especially in relation to intimacy. Because the mind and body are interconnected, thoughts have a great deal to do with bodily response.
Women view their world in a much more comprehensive way than men. Female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone influence the brain by changing the projections around neural circuitries, thereby allowing women to see their world in a more universal context. She could literally be thinking of ten things at once. The kids, her spouse, work, needs at home, etc. This ability to think of many details is what allows for the nurturing characteristics of women to thrive. However, when stress or conflict occur, this is also what can cause on-going issues. As stress takes place, the female brain will project different groups of nuclei where every important aspect of her life is saved. The tendency to put others first during childbearing years is due in part to hormone production. Interestingly enough, once a woman has reached menopause and hormone production shifts, the body will then produce more testosterone. This change in hormones also creates a change in the brain, inducing greater need to obtain self-fulfillment. Understanding these different stages in female hormonal health can produce greater perspective from her spouse.
Another matter to consider is the way that women tend to deal with stress when compared to men. When female hormones combine with other chemicals in the brain such as prolactin and oxytocin and then stress is triggered, the inclination to deal with the stress is to find an outlet. A common stress management outlet for women is talking with a friend or family member. In our very fast paced modern world, this outlet is not as readily available as it use to be. Distractions from media, over-scheduling, etc, can cause this important outlet to often be under-utilized. With no listening ear, stress can continue on.
Men on the other hand do not produce as much oxytocin as women. This means men don’t generally have the same desire to talk as women tend to. Men do, however produce another chemical in the body called, vasopressin. This chemical encourages men to be proactive under stress and will stimulate muscles. The male inclination will be to go outdoors or participate in manual activities such as repairing something or playing sports. Unfortunately, when chronic stress is present, the production of cortisol increases, resulting in a lack of energy and stamina. Dopamine levels can also be affected, thereby disturbing stimulation. Additionally if there are no outlets for stress, there can be a tendency toward addictive behavior such as alcohol, smoking or pornography.
These differences in male and female reproduction as well as the differences in coping mechanisms for stress can lead to unnecessary conflict between men and women. The answer to healthier relationships is to educate oneself on these differences to gain better understand and to also manage stress in a healthy way. Since chronic stress is the underlying cause to many reproductive impairments, correctly addressing this issue will create longer lasting health. Chronic stress begins in the brain with negative thoughts, extended periods of worry, etc, which will leave the stress mechanism on in the body. This stress mechanism left on also establishes new unhealthy behavior such as hyperactivity, perfectionism, the inability to say no, apprehension and other manifestations of stress. When chronic stress becomes a way of life, the reproductive system will be affected.
Phytotherapi has a solution for these reproductive system malfunctions that include phytochemicals from plants to improve hormonal activity. These solutions address chronic stress, sleeping patterns as well as step-by-step protocols to help improve and restore health. Additionally, we have included coping techniques and education on how to connect with others.